by R.L. Furse
Fact or fiction! It can often be hard to tell PDF E-mail

It’s been quite common among law enforcement people to hear unbelievable excuses for speeding and other minor traffic violations. In fact, I’ve heard some excuses were so unbelievable that an officer said no one could make up such an excuse unless it was true, and then issued only a warning.

Prior to a recent Nebraska football game, we heard such type of a story not involving a traffic violation but, from a California hitchhiker who was talking with an attendant in the Nebraska Press parking lot.

The Californian had asked if there was any way to get a bottle of water. The attendant went into the office and brought him two -- compliments of house. The attendant then related the “rest of the story” to me.

That morning the man had arrived in Lincoln after hitchhiking all the way from California. He had left on the previous Wednesday and thumbed rides to Lincoln arriving the day of the game to watch his son play for the Cornhuskers. Unfortunately, he had exited his ride at the Ninth Street exit on I-80 and misunderstood the stadium was at the east edge of Lincoln. He walked nearly 30 blocks before realizing his mistake and eventually arrived back near the stadium via a patron who leases space in the parking lot.

We do not know if he visited his son prior to game time, but we do know the hiker came back to the parking lot near the end of the game and asked the attendant if he could use the office restroom and change his shirt that was in his knapsack. The Californian then continued by telling the attendant a Nebraska gentleman was buying him a bus ticket to Grand Island while another generous Nebraskan had arranged to get him an airline ticket from G.I. back to the West Coast.

Now the real question comes whether this is just a tall tale or has credence. I would hope the Californian was telling the truth. We do know there are many Nebraskan who would be willing to help a stranger in such a situation. However, it makes me have a guilty feeling when the question of “truth or tale” enters my mind. On the other hand, it would have taken a lot of imagination to make up a story such as this and maybe the Californian should be writing novels.

Thank goodness my children are grown and the tooth fairy has long abandoned them. I just read where the tooth fairy now is delivering under the pillows nearly $4 per trip. That’s a 23 percent jump in just a year and a 42 percent spike from 2011. Take heart, that near $4 is the national average. In the Midwest, kids average $3.30 per tooth.

It’s been a good year for growing tomatoes. One Auroran reported to a friend he grew a tomato with a diameter of 13-inches. The friend was not able to verify the tomato’s span because he didn’t see it. Tomato fans may want to keep an eye out for the grower at the next farmer’s market.

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Canning season brings a grape jelly surprise PDF E-mail

Things here on the home front haven’t got any easier the past few weeks. Just like many rulers of the local households, the betterhalf has been busy doing some canning of tomatoes and making what she titles “bread and butter pickles.”

And just like many husbands, I, at times, detect a little kitchen tension and make the wise move to stay out of the kitchen when such canning activities are going on.

Staying out of the kitchen throughout the years has been the directive from the betterhalf. She doesn’t appreciate me being underfoot, questioning why she has certain routines, or asking why she keeps certain kitchen hardware and products in such odd inefficient places.

During this canning season -- which only came about because she received a free box of tomatoes and cucumbers from a friendly gardener -- her patience wore a little thin and, putting it bluntly, “I nearly got canned by the canner.”

If figures prove me right, the betterhalf last had a major canning operation about eight to 10 years ago. At that time she had me take the remaining unused canning jars to the basement and put them away in the adjacent crawl space. As a dutiful husband I had performed the job and, to my surprise, had required no “double checking” from the betterhalf, who normally would’ve insured my efficiency.  My efficiency in those earlier years now has been proven inadequate and triggered my near-firing in this 2013 canning episode.

This year, the betterhalf went to the crawl space to dig into her reserve of canning jars. To her surprise she found a taped box of a dozen jars amidst a few sacks of canning jars in the dark confines of the crawl space. She grabbed the box and hauled it upstairs to the kitchen. Little did she know there was even a bigger surprise in store for her... and eventually also for me.

When she opened up the box she discovered a dozen jars of home-canned grape jelly, all neatly sealed from what we believe was possibly a 2003 grape crop.

As is the rule in our household, I was eager to assume responsibility for such a storage error. I was quick to admit back 10 years ago I must have grabbed the freshly canned grape jelly box along with the sacks of unused canning jars and placed them all in cool storage area. There the lode remained until its discovery this year.

Now more questions remain. Do we spread our 10-year-old grape jelly on our breakfast bagels? Will grape jelly get better with age, just like a fine wine?

We have taken a finger-dipping sample of the jelly and the betterhalf even sampled the spread on her bagel this morning. Now, stay tuned. If you don’t hear a report the betterhalf is in the hospital with food poisoning, you can assume the grape jelly will be used. Well, used at least by her. I still might need a few more weeks to build up my courage for a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich from our household.

Something good came out of something bad PDF E-mail

Sometimes, something good emerges from something bad. That was the case for the betterhalf this summer a few weeks ago. Before getting into the details of good vs. bad, here’s some background information.
The betterhalf is an avid book reader. I would say she might be one of our local library’s best customers. We rarely travel anywhere without the betterhalf lugging along at least a couple of books. When we travel she maintains her nose in a book, only to quickly glance up when the car makes a sudden stop or when I, while observing some scenery, might drift over a rumble strip on the side of the roadway.
However, a little over a year ago, her reading habits went modern when she received a gift Kindle Fire. That meant no more packing a bag loaded with books to our summer vacation spot in Minnesota. Instead, she now carried this small computer, electronic tablet or pad that magically brought, with the touch of her finger, a host of books right before her eyes.
Just when a guy thinks he has it made, a situation can change in a minute. In this case the change also involved not only “the guy,” but the betterhalf as well.
A few weeks ago the betterhalf ventured out on the boat dock to enjoy some sun and do some reading via her Kindle Fire. Meanwhile, I was experiencing a computer problem and called for her to “come ashore” and give me some help. As usual, the betterhalf responded enthusiastically, putting her Kindle Fire on the seat cushion of her boat dock chair and delightfully rushing to my aid.  Her enthusiasm waned when she returned back to the dock chair, only to discover the wind had blown off the chair’s seat cushion along with her Kindle. Seat cushions float, but at this point the question of a Kindle floating seems remote and still unanswered. That’s not to say the betterhalf didn’t give it the “old college try” in her watery search for her book reader.
She scoured the shoreline for several days, amid some grumbling and a reference about trying to help at guy with his computer. She found the seat cushion in a matter of a few hours. Of course the seat cushion was one of those “4-for-$5” bargains. Meanwhile the Kindle eluded her search and is in the deep six somewhere in the lake and now has gone down in history as “lost at sea.”
At the beginning of this tale I stated that sometimes, something good comes from something bad. We celebrated an anniversary this month and I needed a gift idea for the betterhalf. You can’t image better timing for getting the perfect gift for the betterhalf. Yep, a new Kindle Fire HD brought a smile back to the betterhalf’s face.
The summer is all but over. Fishing has been pretty good. In fact, one fisherman reported seeing a fish reading a Kindle at the bottom of the lake. The betterhalf was not amused.

Growing thick skin is the best way to survive PDF E-mail

A couple of things I learned when I was a newspaper publisher was a publisher needed a thick skin and a sense of humor that enabled him to laugh at himself. Since I was a slow learner, my skin finally got thicker and laughs became easier as I got older. Unfortunately, many of our black and white errors were not a laughing matter to a publisher, but provided lots of laughs to many of our readers.
Despite the fact computers with spell-check have replaced the typewriter, dictionary and the eagle eyes of proof readers, those typographical errors still continue in today’s modern journalism. I came across a few of them after reading a national trade publication. I don’t know if these publishers are laughing, but I can now be on the sidelines and laugh along with the newspaper readers.
Here are some of those smile makers:
From Ohio -- “He had the privilege also of viewing a number of rare Egyptian tummies.”
In an Alabama newspaper -- “Our morality rate in Fairfield is low while our birth rate is high.”
A New York department store advertisement -- Evening Gowns Cut Down Ridiculously Low,”
In Texas it was reported -- “Miss Opal Mc____ won first prize for the most original costume at the Hi-Jinx masquerade. Needless to say Miss Mc____ was quite pickled.”
From Missouri -- “The bride was entrancingly gowned in a sheer, soft blue net gown which fell to the floor as she swept down the aisle.”
Another Texas newspaper reported -- “Whether the millionaires were most interested in stocks or blondes, he declined to say.”
A Vermont newspaper printed this recipe for fried chicken -- “Use a frying pan large enough so pieces will fit without crowing.”
*  *  *
While on the subject of journalism you may notice many columnists and editorial writers use the editorial “we.” It’s a strange grammatical irregularity attempting to pull the reader personally into the editorial’s viewpoint. Or, it may have been just a lonesome editor hoping he finds someone else with the same viewpoint. Someone has said that only three classes of people can use the irregularity: Monarchs, editors and those who have tapeworm.
*  *  *
A mathematician tells the easiest way to figure out the cost of living is to take your income and add 10 percent.

Is the computer your best friend or your foe? PDF E-mail

Many of us classify our computer (or smartphone) as our best friend, while many others of us consider that computer to be our worst enemy. Personally some days my computer can be a friend while other times it’s a foe that pushes my frustration to the limits. But, no matter what our feeling about our computer, we all must admit the computer world is here to stay and like the marriage vow line it’s “for better or worse.”

I just finished reading a book published in 1904 about the history of Republic County, Kansas -- my birthplace. My grandfather presented the book to me when I was born. I must apologize to him since it’s taken me over 70 years to open the cover and begin reading. No, I’m not a slow learner -- had other subjects of more interest, both at an early and older age.

When I concluded the reading of the book it was evident a lot of things in life have changed since the 1904 publication and the majority of those changes have taken place in the past 50 years... thanks to the computer and its relatives  that make up computerized technology.

The computer has replaced the over 100 fraternal and social organizations that once existed in the county and thrived on socialization of the people, despite the fact those people worked sun-up to sun-down, seven days a week eking out a living on small farms and businesses. Gone are the homes with wraparound porches and verandas that were once filled by chatting families.

Now our major socialization seems to be done via the computer’s e-mail, texting and software programs such as Facebook, Skype and Twitter. Even computer technology has a cold voice of its own, barking out messages, or sales pitches to us.

Fewer people remember when business deals were concluded with a handshake. Today it’s via e-mail

Shopping experiences -- once done by going to stores asking for a special cut of meat, seeking more info about a product from the owner or a clerk who were personal friends and then hearing the words “thank you” as you exited -- are nearly lost by our present hurry-up attitude. Now, with the click of your computer, you can shop from your home for virtually any product at any store.

Still I cannot condemn our new computer world, where speed seems to have taken over everything we do. Society today seems too busy to take time to enjoy. One can argue the computer allows us more time to do other chores. An argument also can be made that this computer world may have created a situation where we are sacrificing personal human relationships and the benefits thereof.

I concluded that the Kansas history book exemplified no one was busier than those homesteaders and the hours they worked. Still, those people realized the importance of personal relationships and found time to groom them.
Now the real question remains. Was the past really better than the present... and what about the future?

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

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